The Inner Peace Shop: Bonnie White
Bonnie White has been fascinated in holistic therapy for years but felt that aromatherapists were getting a raw deal when buying healing oils. The Inner Peace Shop offers them a more flexible service online. She tells us all about it. Name: Bonnie White Age: 45 Business: The Inner Peace Shop Type of business: Supplier of goods for Holistic Therapists Start date: 10th January 2006
When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business? I’ve had a burning ambition to run my own company for more years than I can remember. The trouble is I’m a soft touch and tend to give more away than I sell when dealing with customers. Therefore, an online business seemed to be a step in the right direction.
Tell us about your business. My business aims to provide quality products at realistic prices, while offering old-fashioned customer service. At the moment I supply the items aromatherapists need, but I offer them the opportunity to buy small amounts of the vast majority of my oils. I am already in the process of expanding the site to offer crystals, incense and salt lamps.
Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?My first business idea was to set up a small salon of my own offering holistic treatments. I qualified as a holistic therapist in 1996 and began to teach at a local college in 1998, once I had gained some industrial experience. My own salon seemed the logical progression.
Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? You could say it was inspired by individuals. I was constantly being approached by people asking where there was a good place to buy oils and what should they buy. This was usually followed a few days later by complaints about how much the stuff costs and that they had to buy such large amounts. This got me thinking, so I did some research and an idea was born.
What makes you think there’s a market for your business?Research told me that not everyone wants to buy large quantities of an oil. Essential oil has a shelf life that can be as short as three months in some cases. It can be very expensive and heartbreaking if you have to dispose of 95% of a bottle of oil. It’s literally throwing good money away, not to mention the conservation issue. Some oils, such as Sandal wood, are becoming very scarce.
Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first?My husband and I began to research other sites to see what was on offer and the difference was amazing. I actually found oils I had never heard of. Once we had done this I began to research the need for another site, with this done I knew I was on the right track. Then came setting up business accounts, signing up for Business Go, Start Ups, Business Link, finding suppliers, talking to the Inland Revenue, designing labels, finding printers, buying an accounts package – the list goes on and on. But I think finding someone to design and build the website gave me the most headaches. The day I found Chris Rivett of Upton(a)way Media Developments was the day my headaches went, he has been truly wonderful.
What research did you do? Lots, I visited other holistic therapists, talked to my students, spoke to buyers in salons and colleges to find out exactly what they want in terms of sizes, delivery dates, quality, range, and customer service. I also approached every advice centre I could find.
What other help did you get?The one person who has helped me more than he will ever know is my husband Glenn, he has supported me, advised me and given me a much needed cuddle when it was all getting too much.
Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? If so, what should they do?I think more help would always be good, more grants would be helpful and documentation that was written in plain language and easy to read and understand would be nice.
Talk us through the process of writing your business plan.I had to produce a business plan while training to be a holistic therapist so I knew what was ahead of me. I searched the web for advice to make sure I got this right the first time round and literally sat at my computer for hours typing in the information I had compiled. Adding graphs to show projected figures gave me a few problems but I sought advice from someone who runs a business course and they helped me sort this out. I didn’t feel the need for any specific software, however for someone planning on setting up a large concern it may well be a good idea.
How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? Writing the plan helped me to get things clear in my mind and focus on where I planned to go. I hope to stick to it. In fact, I hope to do better than the plan, as I tended to hold back a little because I didn’t want to sound over enthusiastic.
How are you funding your running costs until the business takes off?I am still working which helps and the small nest egg I have is still there although it is dwindling fast.
Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected?While I am still working things are well covered, however if I decide to give up work I shall take out extra insurance to cover me for all eventualities.
How many hours are you working at the moment?Preparing to get the business up and running took more hours each day than I had anticipated, if you add this to the hours I am doing at work I feel as though I’m never not working. I don’t know how many hours, I just work until it’s done really.
How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock? I do have a schedule to ensure I fit everything in, which is fairly easy at the moment as the business is still in its early days. I have set myself a cut off time and do try to stick to it, but generally if something needs to be done I like to get it out of the way and will keep working until it’s done.
What about staff, is it just you? For now it’s just me, but I have arranged for my daughter to cover when we go on holiday.
What marketing and advertising have you done so far?Flyers, word of mouth, a small advert to go in local papers, a promotional advert has been sent to family and friends around the country who are going to promote the business for me.
Where do you hope to be in 12 months time?I hope to be making a steady living, maybe thinking about cutting down my hours at work, and thinking of expanding into other areas.
What are the main obstacles to growth? You could say people not finding my site is the biggest obstacle.
How do you plan to overcome these? Advertising more, maybe using my car as a form of advertising, radio ads, and maybe having sponsored links on the search engines but this obviously can cost a great deal so I would have to be sure it was going to pay off.
Tell us about your website. My business is my website. I have to thanks Chris Rivett of Upton(a)way Media Development, without his endless patience and expertise I would not be in the position I am in now. I told Chris the kind of thing I liked and he took my ideas and expanded them, he understood how important the look of the site was and made the whole process as easy for me as he could.
What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? My Nan always told me that there is more to life than money alone and she was right. Of course I need to make a living but for me it’s not just about the money. I hate to be conned or over charged for something that’s why my business is set up the way it is. I enjoy helping people and if by selling them quality products in amounts they same use at realistic prices helps them then I’m happy.
What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? In some ways I wish I had started this when I was a little younger, but to be honest I think I had to wait until I had enough life skills and people skills to be able to make this a success.
What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Patience, enthusiasm, sticking power, not being afraid to ask for help or to say when you don’t understand something, and to some extent sheer bloody mindedness.
So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?Be sure it’s what you want to do, take the time to research thoroughly, get as much help and advice as you can and think like a boy scout … be prepared for anything!